David Pike profiles a region of South Australia that, while new to wine production, looks likely to produce some quality grapes.

WHILE it may sound like a range of RM Williams over-shirts, Wrattonbully is emerging as another region capable of producing quality wines. Situated around 300 kilometres south-east of Adelaide, the region has quietly been transforming itself from predominantly pastoral and forestry based industries into viticulture.

Viticultural interests were first established in 1968, however it is only in the past decade that the region really began to see development of vineyards. Between 1993 and 2002 more than 1100 hectares have been planted and almost 80 per cent of the vines planted are red.

Wrattonbully is situated between Coonawarra and Padthaway, so has a cool climate.

The soils tend to be similar to those in Coonawarra with red clay and clay loams over limestone, which was formed by the ancient coastal dune that runs along much of the South Australian coast.

A number of the major players have acquired vineyard sites in the region, Mildara Blass, BRL Hardy, Cranswick and Yalumba among the first.  There seems little doubt that this area will begin to make inroads into the quality wine stakes over the next few years,as many of the wines are already hitting high notes.

Smith & Hooper Limited Release 2000 Merlot rrp $42 18.75/20

The second release of this wine from the Yalumba portfolio is just around the corner (June) and if it is as good as this first it will be well worth seeking out.

Enticing and attractive aromas, medicinal notes link with a green spice, dark cherries and ripe plums. Oak spice a note of soy and a mineral undertone complement the layered nose. The palate is silky and succulent with a sweet oak note.

The wine is bright, displaying cherries, mulberry and plummy fruits, with a savoury element, fine tannin and good fruit acidity. There is plenty to find in this wine, which finishes long and is a delightful partner to a rack of lamb.

While on the subject of merlot, the third Annual Xanadu International Merlot tasting is to take place on Saturday August 23 at the winery in Margaret River. For further details please contact Melissa at Xanadu wines on 9322 8533. This year looks at the 2000 vintage, if I remember correctly.

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